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Dr. Martha Somerman Earns 2021 ADA Gold Medal Award

October 11, 2021

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CHICAGO, October 11, 2021— The American Dental Association (ADA) announced today that Martha Somerman, D.D.S., Ph.D., has been named the 2021 recipient of the ADA Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Dental Research. The ADA has presented the award every three years since 1985 to recognize individuals who, through basic or clinical research, have contributed to the advancement of the profession of dentistry or to major improvement in the oral health of the public. The award is generously supported by Colgate. 

Over a career spanning more than 50 years, Dr. Somerman has distinguished herself as the author of seminal research on the development and regeneration of oral tissue affected by gum disease. From 2011 to 2019, she served as director of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, the lead U.S. agency for scientific research on dental, oral and craniofacial health and disease. In this role, Dr. Somerman expanded the agency’s clinical program focused on rare and undiagnosed diseases within the dental-oral-craniofacial complex. She also served as principal investigator of the Laboratory of Oral Connective Tissue Biology at the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and as senior clinical advisory staff at the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health.

In a letter announcing the honor, ADA President Daniel J. Klemmedson, D.D.S., M.D., applauded Dr. Somerman for her commitment to professionally developing and motivating those around her. “Your generous mentorship has produced a talented and diverse cadre of scientists who are transforming the workforce and future of dental science,” Dr. Klemmedson wrote.

As a Gold Medal recipient, Dr. Somerman will receive $25,000 and a gold medallion at the SmileCon™ closing ceremony on Oct. 13. She will also select a fellowship recipient who will receive funding of $20,000 to support their own research.

“Being the recipient of this award makes me acutely aware of my wonderful career and how much I owe to so many people,” Dr. Somerman said. She also acknowledged being named the first woman to receive the Gold Medal. “It was almost 50 years ago that I graduated from dental school, class of 1975, a class of 200, with four women, 2% of the class,” Dr. Somerman said. “We’ve come a long way.”

Editor’s Note: Reporters are invited to follow the ADA on Twitter @AmerDentalAssn and #SmileCon2021 for updates from SmileCon 

About the ADA

The not-for-profit ADA is the nation's largest dental association, representing 162,000 dentist members. The premier source of oral health information, the ADA has advocated for the public's health and promoted the art and science of dentistry since 1859. The ADA's state-of-the-art research facilities develop and test dental products and materials that have advanced the practice of dentistry and made the patient experience more positive. The ADA Seal of Acceptance long has been a valuable and respected guide to consumer dental care products. The monthly The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) is the ADA's flagship publication and the best-read scientific journal in dentistry. For more information about the ADA, visit For more information on oral health, including prevention, care and treatment of dental disease, visit the ADA's consumer website